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Helping millennials find passion for justice

From opposing the slave trade and smuggling to fighting the cruel treatment of prisoners, United Methodists' concern for social justice has a long and rich history.

Today's Social Principles are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference, United Methodism's top legislative body, to speak to human issues from a sound biblical and theological foundation.

As it carries out its responsibility for implementing the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns, the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) challenges United Methodists to work in areas of social concern. It develops resources and programs to inform, motivate and train church members on issues of social justice.

Of particular note is the agency's role in involving millennials via internships, seminar programs and young clergy leadership forums.

Quick to point out the importance of millennials' role as interns at GBCS is the Rev. Neal Christie, assistant general secretary for education and leadership formation.

Seminar participants make posters during their event at the General Board of Church and Society headquarters.

"What would Washington, D.C., be without interns?" Christie said. "We couldn't function without them! And why is that? It's not because interns are cheap or free labor. That's far from the truth. Interns provide perspective for people like myself who are called to do ministry within the church and from the church to society.

"They provide a perspective on what it means to be discerning a future as emerging leaders. They have passions and are wondering how to live them out. Interns ask questions that we may miss or overlook. They give us a new set of eyes and ears on social justice issues and what is possible. Millennial United Methodists want to focus on what works to sustain change, and they want to be a part of that environment and that community. They want to have a hand in shaping it for the better."

The agency provides two internship programs. Both offer opportunities for emerging leaders to gain valuable professional advocacy experience in issues involving human well-being, justice, peace and the integrity of creation. The experiences also increase the interns' leadership skills and deepen their Christian walk and witness.

Both programs are life-changing as evidenced by reflections from EYA interns:

"When we leave Washington the world may not look as drastically different as it did two months ago, but I feel that our paradigms do, and that is just the start. First we shift our minds, and then we shift the world." Jeff Preptit, Johnson City, Tennessee

"…I realized I am thirsty for social justice. I am a soul ready to fight for the rights of others who are not treated fairly. I realized that I find joy and meaning in fighting for change and reform in this unjust society. I realized I will always feel empty if I just work for pay and nothing else." Pia Francesca Casas, Manila, Philippines

Cindy Solomon, marketing consultant and content writer living in Franklin, Tennessee.

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Through the Four Areas of Focus churches are engaging in developing principled Christian leaders and building an understanding that everyone has a role in God's work to transform the world and move people to take action.

First published in the Interpreter March/April 2016 issue.

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